All of us have opinions. We have life stories. We observe life in general and persons in particular. We can be driven by tradition or by change. I believe that God knows us, loves us, and speaks to us for all of our lives. If life is eternal, God is with us all the time, before we are born and after we die.
For a long time I've shied away from the word Christian because it does not mean what it used to mean. The actions, words, and attitudes have changed.
I favor missions but disfavor raw evangelism. The apostle James said: "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." - James 2:14-17 (KJV)
All the kind words and sermons in the world will not compensate for ignoring the physical needs of people. Education, Bible study, preaching are important, but I have seen the results of "missions" which give feet, hands, and hearts to the gospel that is preached and lived.
With that preamble (or maybe just ambling), let's put first things first.
I believe and "believe in" the man Jesus described in the four gospels and by earlier words. I believe because I've seen Him live in people I have known. I cannot accept any other way. Jesus is not a doctrine; he is a person sent by his Father to His children. He lived among the people, high and low. He laid down his life to buy our lives. He saved us. He went to His Father and we will live with Them by and by.
I don't accept the quotation "Everybody is trying to get to the same place." It wastes time to argue about religion. Jesus told a story about a wheat field infested with tares. The workers wanted to uproot and destroy the tares, but the owner said "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
To me that suggests we are not to try to eliminate "tares" because Jesus said so. All the religious people, the agnostics, atheists, believers and non-believers are to live together peacefully in the field until by and by.
IF YOU SKIP ALL THE REST, PLEASE READ THIS:
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." - John 14:6 (KJV)
Jesus said it, and I believe it. In Acts 4, the apostles Peter and John addressed the people including the highest leaders of the Jews, telling them that Jesus is 'the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.' Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one."
I believe it. As followers of Jesus we are to love our neighbors and our enemies - to love everybody. That's a tall order!
JESUS, JESUS IS A WAYMAKER. ONE DAY HE MADE A WAY FOR ME!
William A. Ricks